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School selection timeline

The high school application process, step by step

This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.

This year, the District’s high school application process will be online only. For families who do not have Internet access, computer kiosks will be available at regionally based Learning Network Offices and the Office of Student Enrollment and Placement, located at 440 N. Broad St., Suite 111. Families can also utilize computer resources at their local Free Library branches.

As usual, the District’s process will include neighborhood schools with available seats and citywide and special admission high schools. Charter schools have a variety of timelines and processes.

September – December

  • Schools work with students to review their academic records and the admissions criteria at various schools.
    The School Selection student application will be available on the District’s website from Oct. 17 to Dec. 12. District students will be able to access the application through the parent/student online portal by entering their student ID and password. Non-District students will be able to access the application through a link on the main page of the School District’s website.
    The High School Expo will be held Friday, Oct. 17 (3-7 p.m.) and Saturday, Oct. 18 (9 a.m.-3 p.m.) at the Armory at Drexel University, 33rd and Market Streets. All Philadelphia District, charter and Archdiocesan schools are invited.
    Families research schools. Students and families can access the District’s high school directory and other school selection resources at
    Counselors and teachers may hold information sessions to help parents and students choose schools and complete the online student application. Parents should ask principals for information about assistance in completing the online student application.

Fall and ongoing

  • Some high schools allow prospective applicants to visit and shadow students. Families should contact schools directly. The District is encouraging high schools to hold open houses in the fall for prospective students.
    Charter schools have separate application forms and deadlines for entering admissions lotteries. A list of charter schools participating in the new common application coordinated by the Charter School Office, Great Schools Compact and Philadelphia School Partnership is available on

By Dec. 12

  • The application deadline for the District’s School Selection application and the common application for charter schools is 5 p.m. on Dec. 12. Applications may be submitted starting Oct. 17, but there is no admissions advantage to submitting early.
    Students may apply to up to five District schools. There is no limit on charter applications.
    Non-District students who applied to District schools with admissions criteria must deliver transcripts and any required supplemental materials, such as essays, directly to the schools.

January – February

  • High schools with admissions criteria begin to conduct interviews and hold auditions. Some schools only invite in students who have met their criteria and do not notify students who have not. Other schools interview all applicants. Some schools expect the student to call to schedule the interview, so students should consult teachers and counselors and keep on top of the process.
    Special admission schools make acceptance, rejection, and waitlist decisions.
    Citywide schools choose the students who qualify to enter into the admissions lottery.
    The District Offices of Student Enrollment and Placement and Information Technology run three separate computerized lotteries (for general education, special education, ELL) for acceptance to citywide and neighborhood schools.
    Charter schools begin holding admissions lotteries.


  • District notifies students about initial status for their selected schools: Accepted, Declined, or Waitlisted.
    Students with multiple acceptances are expected to select preferred school within two weeks.
    Students with no acceptances are guaranteed enrollment at their neighborhood school.


  • District collaborates with schools to fill vacancies from waiting lists and sends students final letters about where they’ve been accepted. Most students should have their assignments by April.

… and beyond

  • After students receive their final letters from the District, students may make one change in their school selection if they are subsequently accepted from waiting lists.
    Schools continue to pull from waiting lists to fill vacancies if they arise as families’ plans change.

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